Friday, 29 February 2008

Stockings for Stephen Maturin

"'...and pull on your stockings, I beg. We have not a moment to lose. No, not the blue stockings: we are going on to Mrs Harte's party - to her rout.'

'Must I put on silk stockings?...Was I to put the silk stockings over my worsted ones, sure the hole would not show: but then I should stifle with the heat.'"

Master and Commander, Chapter Six

This is the second mention of knitted objects in the POB Canon. In the third chapter of Master and Commander, James Mowett is described as wearing "a striped Guernsey shirt, a knitted garment that gave him very much the look of a caterpillar." This garment may have been loom knitted. "Worsted," on the other hand, sometimes referred to hand knit objects so I decided to make Stephen's blue stockings. The debate over the stockings in Chapter Six is followed by the description of domestic chamber music and that its audience, "Mrs Brown and a white cat, sat mildly knitting, perfectly satisfied with the performance."

What was the cat knitting, I wonder?

I chose Blackberry Ridge lace weight wool, Dark Wedgewood, for this project. I like its wools for historic knitting as the colours resemble natural dyes and the texture is like fine hand spun. I will publish the yardage used when I have completed the pair of stockings as I have no idea at this point how much will be needed. I am using five 2.00mm metal double pointed needles with a gauge/tension of 11 stitches/inch. The top of the stocking has the 18th century style of garter stitch rows edging with a stocking/stockinette plain stitch area where the garter or band would go around, followed by another double series of garter stitch rows, hopefully preventing rolling down and slipping of any fastening, and then the stocking/stockinette plain stitch for the rest of the stocking. "S" and "M" will be cross stitched in red (typical colour used for this purpose) cotton (standing in for silk) thread in the upper part of the stocking using lettering common in late 18th century samplers. The body of the stocking is based on the 1765 one and pattern found in Sharon Ann Burnston's book "Fitting and Proper," (1998).

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